From showrunner Steve Lightfoot (Hannibal), the Marvel/Netflix series The Punisher follows Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), who mistakenly thought he’d be able to disappear into a quiet life, now that he was finished exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his wife and children. But when he uncovers a conspiracy that runs far deeper than New York’s criminal underworld, The Punisher must discover just how far and deep the injustices run.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Deborah Ann Woll (who has played Karen Page in Daredevil, The Defenders and The Punisher) talked about what she loves about the Frank/Karen dynamic, why it’s important to her for Karen to have agency in her own story, what makes Karen someone to aspire to, how Frank and Karen are more alike than either originally realized, and the different chemistry with both Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and Frank Castle. She also talked about what she’s still excited to learn about Karen Page, what she hopes to explore in Daredevil Season 3, getting to work with a new showrunner, and what Karen really wants for herself.
Collider: When and how did you find out that you’d actually get to join The Punisher, and how did you feel about getting to further explore the dynamic between Frank and Karen?
DEBORAH ANN WOLL: When they knew they were going to do a Punisher show, I hoped that I would get to be a part of it. And then, eventually they call your reps and ask for your availability, and all that stuff. When I found out, I was so glad ‘cause I really love the relationship between Frank and Karen, and I’m certainly not done telling that story yet, not even after The Punisher Season 1. There’s still more that I’d like to dig into. Any opportunity that I get to strengthen those stories is a good thing.
When you originally signed on with Marvel, did you have any idea that you’d go on to be the link between these shows and characters, or has that come as a surprise?
WOLL: No! Now that the show is doing well, it’s not hard to imagine, but when we were doing the first season, we didn’t know if there would be another show, another season, or anything. We were the first ones, and we had no idea if it would be anything. As weird as that is to think about now, it was kind of a crapshoot. We just didn’t know.
You were such a fan favorite character on True Blood. Were you ever nervous about finding another role where you could really establish a character that stands out among the other characters, in the way that you were able to do with Jessica?
WOLL: From the actor side of it, you never really set out to be a stand-out character. You just want to do justice to the story and enjoy playing it, and find all the different nooks and crannies of who someone is. For each part that you get, they’re all special and you just try to give everything you can to each one. I don’t know whether they’re going to be stand out in that way or not factors into my work. They all stand out for me.
You’ve talked about Karen having agency in her own story. Was that important to you, from the moment you stepped into this role, or was that something you started to want to fight for, the more you were living in her shoes?
WOLL: That was true, at the very beginning, and that’s the kind of thing that’s true with every character. In the beginning of a show, as an actor, I don’t have a lot of say, in terms of storyline and what they want to do with [my character], at least in my position, in my career. So, for me, it is within the acting. How do I make every moment active and make choices that make her interesting and complex? And then, as the years have gone on and you start to know your character better than some of the writers and directors do, you get a little bit more of a world in which you can say, “I think it would be really great, if this year, her fate wasn’t determined by the boys,” or that kind of thing. You have to pick your battles and make sure that you’ve earned the right to talk about that.
Karen has become a superhero, in her own right. Do you think she’s more of a hero to admire and aspire to than some of these actual superheroes, who don’t always make the best choices and sometimes really screw up their own lives?
WOLL: Karen does that, too. She screws up her own life, and the lives of people around her, as well. You can’t aspire to have heightened senses, whereas you can aspire to tell the truth, every single second, and you can aspire to be dogged and just never let anything be enough, never give in, and never give up. That’s the kind of person that Karen is, and I think that’s what makes her a valuable role model. You can actually become Karen Page. It would be very hard to become Daredevil.